Brief History of Southeast Institute for Group and Family Therapy

The Institute was founded in 1969 in Madison Heights, VA, as a non-profit educational institution called the Fellowship for Racial and Economic Equality. Its goal was to help eradicate racism from American society. Believing that every personal problem is a social problem, and every social problem is a personal problem, the Fellowship staff, led by Graham Barnes, sought to integrate effective tools from psychotherapy and social change. An initial grant was obtained from the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation to work with a target group of American fundamentalist church structures. By 1971, they offered training in transactional analysis and creative group problem solving to help professionals confront social problems such as racism and improve their own effectiveness as psychotherapists.

In 1974, the Fellowship made Chapel Hill, NC, its home and the name Southeast Institute was chosen to reflect an expanded focus. Shortly after this move, an experimental Master of Arts program in psychotherapy and social change was launched. By mid-1974 the program was fully operational as a joint venture with Lone Mountain College. In May 1975, 22 students were graduated. About a third of the alumni have pursued doctorate degrees in clinical psychology, and most of the others are engaged in challenging work in the mental health field. A committee from the Western and Southern Associations of Schools and Colleges made the following comments about the program following a visit to the Institute in late 1974: “The committee feels that this program should be encouraged to continue. The Ideas behind it and the need it serves might well be considered by the other institutions. It is not only academically responsible, but it is the type of program that is sorely needed by society.”

The Lilly Endowment Counselors Education Program was also begun in 1973 to train faculty and counselors from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the South. When the program ended in June 1976, more than 90 people from 17 colleges and universities had participated in some part of all of the program. Several of these professionals are now members or are actively pursuing advanced membership in ITAA.

In 1974, Southeast Institute held its first Spring Conference in Chapel Hill. Three hundred people participated. The conference now attracts about 1000 people annually. The annual Eric Berne Lectures on Social Psychotherapy were inaugurated at the 1977 Conference with a lecture by Gregory Bateson.

Southeast Institute has earned respect and recognition for its excellence of training and for its continued commitment to developing effective models for individual and social change.


Southeast Institute for Group and Family Therapy is committed to making the world a better place for all by connecting people to their worth, value, and dignity and the worth, value, and dignity in others. We offer to our clients excellence in clinical therapy and psychotherapy training.

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